Netflix has a global reach that dwarfs pretty much every other streaming service, and since its move into content creation, the streaming giant has been funneling cash into making region-specific films and shows to satisfy its ever-expanding, worldwide subscriber base. While the Anglosphere (driven mostly by the U.S. and Canada) remains a lucrative and vital market for the company, it’s clear to see that they are widening their lens in a way that few other production companies and networks have the ability to. Thankfully for its subscribers, that means plenty of new shows in different languages. So, if you’re looking for something beyond the usual algorithm-driven suggestions, want to improve your language skills by watching something from a different country, or just fancy making a change to your viewing habits, then check out our list of the 10 best foreign language Netflix original series!
This underrated but beloved Norwegian fantasy drama follows a teenager named Magne who discovers that he’s the reincarnation of Thor, God of Thunder. Magne soon realizes that the wealthy industrialist family who practically run his idyllic-seeming town (but in reality, pumps it full of pollution) are evil spirits, and that it’s his duty to face off against them in a final battle that will determine whether the Earth survives or not. Along the way, he learns that many other townfolk, including close friends, are also reincarnated Gods, and they band together to try and save the world. The environmentalist themes are strong in this show, but mostly it’s just an exciting and pretty addictive watch.
Brutal but brilliant, the South Korean ultraviolent drama Squid Game made waves when its first season dropped, quickly becoming one of the most successful shows in all of Netflix’s short but very busy history. It even birthed a short-lived and highly dubious reality show, such was its popularity. The first season follows Seong Gi-hun, a poor, divorced man who is given the chance to win a life-changing sum of money. The catch? He has to go up against over four hundred other desperate contestants in a series of challenges based on famous children’s games, with deadly outcomes for those who fail. A compelling criticism of the evils of capitalism, this is a must-watch.
Club de Cuervos
Club de Cuervos is a side-splitting Mexican comedy series that follows the spoiled Iglesias siblings as they attempt to run the family football (soccer) club after their father’s sudden death. The show is a little bit like Succession, but on a lower level and with even more ridiculous personalities. Aside from being genuinely hilarious, Club de Cuervos also gives viewers a surprisingly thorough look at the Mexican soccer pyramid and dives into issues around corruption within the sport, and how it links to the wider political structure of the Central American country. Mostly, though, it’s just an incredible four seasons of fun, buoyed by great performances and engaging storylines.
Time travel shows are incredibly hard to get right, but the German sci-fi drama Dark knocks it right out of the park, which has led to it having some pretty famous fans. The show begins with the mysterious disappearance of Mikkel Nielson, but we soon find ourselves asking not “Where is Mikkel?” but “When is Mikkel?” At the center of the strange events is a friend of Mikkel’s older siblings named Jonas, and once he starts digging into the boy’s disappearance, he quickly realizes that he’s not the only one who’s interested — and that the woods just outside his town are hiding a lot more secrets than he previously thought. Addictive, smart, and perfectly written, this is one of the best shows on Netflix period, not just out of the non-English options.
This slick update of the famous French character fast became a favorite among local and international audiences alike. The mystery thriller series follows the son of an immigrant and a professional thief named Assane Diop as he seeks revenge on the man who framed his father of a serious crime, leading to his dad’s eventual incarceration and suicide. Diop is inspired by the works of gentleman thief Arsène Lupin, and takes on many of the French icon’s signifiers during his mission. If you like spycraft, intricate storylines, and solid performances, then this is definitely the series for you. Plus, who doesn’t love a charming, good-looking Frenchman like star Omar Sy?
Call My Agent!
We stay in France for our next entry, but the tone of this show is vastly different to Lupin. In Call My Agent! (Dix Percent, or “ten percent” in French), we’re thrust into the high-end, upmarket world of a famous Parisian talent agency named ASK. The agents are backstabby and always trying to keep their insanely entitled clients happy, all while trying to build a life outside of the place they call home — but what can sometimes feel like their prison. The guest stars on this show are all French cinema and television royalty: Monica Bellucci, Sigourney Weaver, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Jean Dujardin are just some of the internationally acclaimed stars who play parodied versions of themselves in the series, which combines slapstick humor, brilliant character work, and soap opera-like surprises into one binge-able package.
This critically acclaimed Swedish psychological drama is based on a best-selling novel of the same name by author Malin Persson Giolito, and is much loved for its dark themes, intriguing twists, and brilliant writing. The series takes place in the aftermath of a school shooting in a Stockholm school, and as this isn’t America, the event is quite a big deal. The prime suspect is Maja Norberg, a young teen who is brought in and begins recounting her version of events, starting with meeting her now deceased ex-boyfriend Sebastian just under a year before the massacre. What unfolds is a wild ride in which the viewer is never really sure what is real and what isn’t, with flashbacks mixed into the modern-day narrative.
Our third and final visit to France on this list (what can we say, they make great television) sees us return to Paris once again, where we find the Hazan family. For years, they’ve owned a Kosher butcher shop in the heart of the French capital, but with the family matriarch long gone and prices going up, as well as eldest son Jonathan not wanting to carry on what is basically a failing business, it seems like the shop is toast. However, after a chance drunken encounter with a well-connected acquaintance, Jonathan learns that France may soon be legalizing cannabis, and attempts to convince his dad and family to turn the business into a weed cafe. What follows is a ludicrous tale that leads to the Hazans becoming entangled in an international crime ring. One of the funniest shows on Netflix.
Alice in Borderland
This hit Japanese sci-fi thriller has quickly become an international favorite, racking up the streaming numbers like nothing else. Based on Haro Aso’s manga of the same name, it follows a dedicated gamer who finds himself in a strange, abandoned version of Tokyo. He and his allies are forced to compete in various dangerous games, with each game’s type and difficulty level represented by playing cards. If they succeed, their “visa” extends. And, if they fail? Lasers rain down on them from the sky, executing them. Brilliant cinematography makes this a real visual spectacle, but the fast-paced plot and great action sequences really elevate it.
This breathtaking Indian neo-noir series is based on a novel of the same name by Vikram Chandra. In it, disillusioned cop Sartaj Singh receives a strange phone call from a notorious crime lord named Ganesh Gaitonde, who tells him that he has 25 days to save the city. What follows is Sartaj diving into the rabbit’s warren that is the Mumbai underworld, where he discovers more and more about Gaitonde’s past, and how he might even be linked to the city’s most dangerous gangster. Diving into all sorts of controversial topics, like police corruption and religious extremism in India, it’s not just an addictive show, but an informative one, too.